Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

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Aharris88
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Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Aharris88 » Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:12 pm

My wife and I just had our second child this week (yeah!!). I am fortunate that the mega corp I work for offers two types of parental leave -- 4 consecutive weeks at any point within the first 6 months of birth (labeled 'non-primary care') OR 16 consecutive weeks from the date of birth (labeled 'primary care'). As an employee I can take either leave option; you simply indicate which you want to take and the company honors that choice. Taking 16 weeks and having the opportunity to so closely bond with my wife and children for 4 months would be truly amazing!

HOWEVER, I am going back and forth on which parental leave option to take, and looking for guidance and perspective from this community.

My hesitation in taking the full 16 weeks is that (unfortunately) there is still a perception from males that if they take the 16 weeks we fear that the company may question lack of commitment, we may be passed over for promotions, receive a reduced bonus, etc. While there are policies in place to help protect from these possible actions, this perception and stigma of taking off this amount of time remains, and I would argue does have some level of truth.

I am in a really good situation at my company - strong reputation, seasoned leader, strategic mindset, etc. Yet with so many org/structural/leadership changes occurring now in my mega corp, I too worry that when I return management may say.... ' well while you were out, X person took over your primary responsibilities, we shifted Y work to another team, trying to figure out where you fit, etc.

Has anyone faced a similar decision point? Or any perspective from folks? Welcome your thoughts! Many thanks!

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Dottie57 » Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:25 pm

How will anything change perceptions if men don’t start taking 16 weeks off?

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by HawkeyePierce » Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:51 pm

Only you know the dynamics of your corporation, but my employer offers 20 weeks to both fathers and mothers and I've heard of any issues. It's actually weird if you *don't* take all of it here.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by veindoc » Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:53 pm

Just take the time off you want. It may raise some eyebrows a bit initially but they will get over it. I am a surgeon and took 4 months off when the norm was 6 weeks. It was our first baby. I didn’t have any family in the area, so no one close by to show me the ropes and I had next to zero experience with babies. I also hadn’t worked out what I wanted to do for childcare etc: nanny vs daycare and had one afternoon to visit daycares to see which one to choose. Finally, my husband’s family didn’t have the financial means to visit so I wanted to travel over Xmas and new year to see them and squeeze in a baptism so they could meet the baby and participate in the baptism which put my leave at 16 weeks.

I remember telling my division head (father of four) when I planned to return and he literally shouted “4 months!” and then nothing after that. I considered explaining my reasoning but left it at that. I was entitled to it and frankly didn’t want anyone to try to talk me out of it. I came back January 2 and worked my butt off and that was that. That was over 11 years ago. People get over it. Soon after the surgeon moms started taking 3 months instead of 6 weeks. I’d like to think I broke the mold but not quite sure.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Horton » Sun Jan 05, 2020 4:03 pm

I took 10 weeks off for the birth of our second and third child. It worked out extremely well for me and my family, both personally and professionally, so I would recommend 16 weeks.

Even in the worst case professional scenario, I highly doubt you will be sitting in your rocking chair 50 years from now wishing you took less time.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Invest4lt » Sun Jan 05, 2020 4:09 pm

I say take the option that appeals to you. I think it will affect your promotions and bonuses in the short term only. IME, when allocating bonuses and promotions, the items go to the employees who have contributed within the review cycle. If you haven’t contributed it is difficult to justify a raise or promotion. But long term you will be able to make contributions in future review cycles to qualify for bonuses and promotions.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by il0kin » Sun Jan 05, 2020 6:37 pm

veindoc wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:53 pm
Just take the time off you want. It may raise some eyebrows a bit initially but they will get over it. I am a surgeon and took 4 months off when the norm was 6 weeks. It was our first baby. I didn’t have any family in the area, so no one close by to show me the ropes and I had next to zero experience with babies. I also hadn’t worked out what I wanted to do for childcare etc: nanny vs daycare and had one afternoon to visit daycares to see which one to choose. Finally, my husband’s family didn’t have the financial means to visit so I wanted to travel over Xmas and new year to see them and squeeze in a baptism so they could meet the baby and participate in the baptism which put my leave at 16 weeks.

I remember telling my division head (father of four) when I planned to return and he literally shouted “4 months!” and then nothing after that. I considered explaining my reasoning but left it at that. I was entitled to it and frankly didn’t want anyone to try to talk me out of it. I came back January 2 and worked my butt off and that was that. That was over 11 years ago. People get over it. Soon after the surgeon moms started taking 3 months instead of 6 weeks. I’d like to think I broke the mold but not quite sure.
I would never in a million years want a surgeon operating on me who gave birth 6 weeks prior. That is a HARD time until the baby stabilizes on sleep! Very foggy and tired. It’s good you set a new precedent.

To OP: take the 16 and don’t apologize. I only got 2 weeks (father) and wish I had more.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by ZMonet » Sun Jan 05, 2020 6:47 pm

I got zero paid time off but used all my vacation and some unpaid time off to take 2 months off while my wife went back to work. We staggered, she took 3 months and I took 2 months. As others have said, I wouldn't trade that time for anything. With that said, if I was "just" a backup for my spouse that might drive me to go back a little sooner. But hey, take the 16 and then if you're itching to come back after 8, go back. You'd probably get points for coming back after 8 since their expectation would have been that you weren't coming back for 16.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by RevFran » Sun Jan 05, 2020 7:03 pm

3 years from now, no one at your office will remember how much time you took off (but you will).

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by rage_phish » Sun Jan 05, 2020 7:08 pm

You will never get that time back with your kid. And your wife will benefit greatly from 16 weeks of help rather than 4

And if your company really gives you a hard time, find a better company.

This is a no brainer to me

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Carson » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:19 pm

Is your wife returning to work after the birth? If so, when and what are your childcare plans?

It might be nice to be home for that length of time, but maybe it would be better to take the 4 weeks later if it would help you bridge some kind of childcare gap down the line.
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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by geerhardusvos » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:27 pm

The benefit is there for a reason. If your company penalize you for taking benefits they offer, it’s not a company you want to work for. 16 weeks is a long time, but I would do it
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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by BlueCable » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:31 pm

You referred to the 16-week options as "primary care." Is that supposed to be for the primary caregiver? Or, is it called probably because it starts at birth?

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by gallico » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:47 pm

You will need to look at what the HR defines as "primary caregiver". That is likely going to be the mother as she nurses and will be the primary carer of the child. While you share the responsibility the parental roles, you are not the primary caregiver and likely the secondary caregiver.

Of course that also depends on your home situation (is your wife going back to work sooner as an example). But best to go your HR group.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by gallico » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:47 pm

Oops. double posted by accident.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:52 pm

I took 12 unpaid under FMLA after my wife took all of her leave (5 months between all the various ones). Although they say only 4 weeks if not started at birth, if you qualify for FMLA, you can take 12 and it can be at a time (within FMLA limits) of your choosing. But I think you're more worried what this leave will have on your career. You have to make your own decision, but I took the time without pay and know absolutely I made the right decision.
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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by averagedude » Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:56 pm

Every company has a different culture. This is wierd, but the company I work for thinks less of you if you take an extended leave, but has a short memory when you come back as long as you are a positive asset to the company.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by oldfatguy » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:22 pm

Take the 16 weeks. 16 > 4.

I took every single hour of my 12 weeks of FMLA when my child was born. Took off 6 full weeks when she was born, and then spread the other 6 weeks over the next few months by working part-time.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by datasciguy » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:26 pm

Congrats! Take the time off to be with your family. As a father of three, I took my 4-weeks of paternity leave without hesitation. It was especially important after kids #2 and #3, as I tended to them while mom tended to baby. Was great bonding time with my children and wife. Their perception of you matters more than that of your coworkers. :happy. All the best.
Last edited by datasciguy on Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Geneyus » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:40 pm

My wife and I took 8 weeks off after our child was born during the winter. Longest 8 weeks of my life. Couldn't do anything outdoors. Went to the store a lot just to get out of the house.

I still don't regret taking the time off to be with the baby.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Flagpole W » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:09 pm

Congrats on the little one

I took the 4 week option for a bunch of reasons:
- It's way more flexible, can be used at any point in the child's first 6 months and in incriments of 1 week at a time
- An infant isn't going to be incredibly active it's first couple months. There really won't be much to do. The biggest help you can be for your wife is to take the lead on sleep training when the time comes and take shifts during the night
- You can take the additional leave after your wife returns to work. I took mine when baby was 5 months old and it was awesome. Old enough to take trips around town and to parks. Much better bonding period and it delayed daycare an additional 4 weeks on the back end.

If you take the 16 weeks up front, I predict you'll be checking emails within 2 weeks.

Last piece of advice, if you need it, apply for onsite day care now - there used to be a wait list...

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Aharris88
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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Aharris88 » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:20 pm

Thank you to everyone for your perspectives. This is a very special time for our family and taking the right amount of time to be with them is so important and valuable!

retired recently
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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by retired recently » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:12 pm

I think my answer would differ based on the type and amount of work, For instance, if you are in a rather seasonal type of work like tax prep then if you took off from Jan thru April it would be the majority of the workload for the year, in this case I would tend to go with 4 weeks only, especially given this is your first child. If the nature of the work is steady and you are not leaving your team or coworkers in a bad situation, I would take off 16. Good luck and Congrats!
Last edited by retired recently on Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by rj342 » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:22 pm

Aharris88 wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:20 pm
Thank you to everyone for your perspectives. This is a very special time for our family and taking the right amount of time to be with them is so important and valuable!
Do what the other commenter recommended and get the fine print on primary vs non-primary -- it may effectively be longer maternity leave vs shorter paternity leave in practice. The longer 'primary care' option may not be available to you.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by rcjchicity » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:23 pm

Another vote for taking 16 weeks. Since this is your 2nd child, 2 adults around to take care of 2 kids would be immensely helpful. Man-to-man defense is easier than zone :D

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by beehivehave » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:27 pm

Aharris88 wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:12 pm
Yet with so many org/structural/leadership changes occurring now in my mega corp, I too worry that when I return management may say.... ' well while you were out, X person took over your primary responsibilities, we shifted Y work to another team, trying to figure out where you fit, etc.
If they did that, you should sue their butts.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Unladen_Swallow » Mon Jan 06, 2020 5:21 pm

Aharris88 wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:12 pm

HOWEVER, I am going back and forth on which parental leave option to take, and looking for guidance and perspective from this community.

Has anyone faced a similar decision point? Or any perspective from folks? Welcome your thoughts! Many thanks!


I have not faced a similar situation, but am familiar with corp culture.

Take the 16 weeks. No question. Show confidence instead of insecurity. I'm being a bit dramatic to make a point. If the company frowns on it, maybe it is food for thought on your longevity there.
"I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong." - Richard Feynman

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Patrick584 » Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:10 pm

gallico wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:47 pm
You will need to look at what the HR defines as "primary caregiver". That is likely going to be the mother as she nurses and will be the primary carer of the child. While you share the responsibility the parental roles, you are not the primary caregiver and likely the secondary caregiver.

Of course that also depends on your home situation (is your wife going back to work sooner as an example). But best to go your HR group.
Fathers are primary caregivers period. No HR could legally say otherwise. This isn’t the 1950s.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by BlueCable » Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:56 pm

Patrick584 wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:10 pm
gallico wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:47 pm
You will need to look at what the HR defines as "primary caregiver". That is likely going to be the mother as she nurses and will be the primary carer of the child. While you share the responsibility the parental roles, you are not the primary caregiver and likely the secondary caregiver.

Of course that also depends on your home situation (is your wife going back to work sooner as an example). But best to go your HR group.
Fathers are primary caregivers period. No HR could legally say otherwise. This isn’t the 1950s.
He and his wife cannot both be primary caregivers at the same time. He may or may not be the primary caregiver, depending on how his family handles child-reading duties. "Primary Caregiver" is a real term with real meaning.

From USLegal.com: "In Family law, primary caretaker or primary caregiver refers to the parent who has the greatest responsibility for the daily care and rearing of a child."

It would be at least unethical to claim the Primary Caregiver leave if someone is not the primary caregiver.

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Aharris88
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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Aharris88 » Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:08 am

Thank you all so much for your thoughts. Very helpful!

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Texanbybirth » Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:17 am

I'd do the 16 weeks in a heartbeat and not look back. As others have said, there are (company and legal) safeguards in place for how you'll be treated upon return. If you're as good an employee as you say, and if your company does any of the negative things you're afraid of, you won't have a hard time finding a job at a company that better respects its own parental leave policies. Congratulations on #2, what a great time for your family!

I had a month off with our first. It was wonderful. When we had our second (and third) I took two weeks vacation. All those nights of staying up with baby while my wife slept inbetween nursings is time I wouldn't trade for anything, even though I had to be at work at 7 the next day. It really simplified life: wife, baby, other children, food, coffee, focus on driving. Brush teeth once a week or so. (We also have a large and strong community network that significantly helped my wife and family when I went back to work so it wasn't as bad as I make it seem. :D )
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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by UnLearnYourself » Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:34 am

Aharris88 wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:12 pm
My wife and I just had our second child this week (yeah!!). I am fortunate that the mega corp I work for offers two types of parental leave -- 4 consecutive weeks at any point within the first 6 months of birth (labeled 'non-primary care') OR 16 consecutive weeks from the date of birth (labeled 'primary care'). As an employee I can take either leave option; you simply indicate which you want to take and the company honors that choice. Taking 16 weeks and having the opportunity to so closely bond with my wife and children for 4 months would be truly amazing!

HOWEVER, I am going back and forth on which parental leave option to take, and looking for guidance and perspective from this community.

My hesitation in taking the full 16 weeks is that (unfortunately) there is still a perception from males that if they take the 16 weeks we fear that the company may question lack of commitment, we may be passed over for promotions, receive a reduced bonus, etc. While there are policies in place to help protect from these possible actions, this perception and stigma of taking off this amount of time remains, and I would argue does have some level of truth.

I am in a really good situation at my company - strong reputation, seasoned leader, strategic mindset, etc. Yet with so many org/structural/leadership changes occurring now in my mega corp, I too worry that when I return management may say.... ' well while you were out, X person took over your primary responsibilities, we shifted Y work to another team, trying to figure out where you fit, etc.

Has anyone faced a similar decision point? Or any perspective from folks? Welcome your thoughts! Many thanks!
Does an employer who offers you a benefit then pulls the rug out from beneath your feet when you exercise said benefit deserve your time and hard work?

If the employer burns the bridge, what do your prospects look like for finding similar work elsewhere or independently?

I'm also working for a large fortune 500 company who has really no offering beyond the FMLA protections, and I had my first child within 3 months of being hired. So unfortunately due to my lack of tenure and the steep learning curve I signed up for (and that they took somewhat of a leap on with me), I didn't feel comfortable flexing my full privileges. I ended up taking 2 consecutive weeks after the baby was born, and then over the course of the year was fairly liberal with my work from home days, as well as using more sick days in one year than I have with any job ever, and overall I felt like I had all the time I needed with my family. The fantastic flexibility I have on a day to day basis was really the kicker that helped make it all work despite the somewhat limited days off.

That said, the somewhat non-logical part of my brain says you can never go wrong in life following your heart, and your family, and that little spark that drives you towards and based on those things. Even if you land flat on your face returning to your company after 16 weeks, I am a firm believer that your path will ultimately lead you where you belong and everything will work out for the best.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by Dottie57 » Thu Jan 09, 2020 11:52 am

Take 16 weeks for. But also make sure the company/department does not suffer without you. Don’t make mgmt curse while you are gone.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by ScubaHogg » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:18 pm

If 16 weeks feels too long from a career perspective, can you opt for 16 then come back early? Say at 10-12 weeks? Might be long enough to get some good bonding time with your newborn and let your wife get her feet back underneath her w/o feeling like you are damaging your career prospects
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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by TheMadEph » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:44 pm

BlueCable wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:56 pm
Patrick584 wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:10 pm
gallico wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:47 pm
You will need to look at what the HR defines as "primary caregiver". That is likely going to be the mother as she nurses and will be the primary carer of the child. While you share the responsibility the parental roles, you are not the primary caregiver and likely the secondary caregiver.

Of course that also depends on your home situation (is your wife going back to work sooner as an example). But best to go your HR group.
Fathers are primary caregivers period. No HR could legally say otherwise. This isn’t the 1950s.
He and his wife cannot both be primary caregivers at the same time. He may or may not be the primary caregiver, depending on how his family handles child-reading duties. "Primary Caregiver" is a real term with real meaning.

From USLegal.com: "In Family law, primary caretaker or primary caregiver refers to the parent who has the greatest responsibility for the daily care and rearing of a child."

It would be at least unethical to claim the Primary Caregiver leave if someone is not the primary caregiver.
I would not rely on Uslegal.com to make any decisions. Family law definitions are irrelevant because you are talking about HR policies and fair treatment of the employee. OP - don't worry about this distinction, it is a red herring.
(What if parents actually equally share responsibility - are there no primary caregivers in that situation?)

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by KyleAAA » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:47 pm

Take the 16 weeks. The perception will only change when men start taking the full leave and there are no resulting consequences. If there actually end up being negative consequences, leave. Why would you want to work there in that case anyway?

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by fourwheelcycle » Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:49 pm

Is your wife going to go back to work during those sixteen weeks, making you the primary weekday parent? If not, I would rule out taking sixteen weeks.

I know times are changing, but when my wife had our two children I took perhaps five days off when each child was born and went in late or came home early on several days after that. Later, I took half days or full days off if one of our children was sick and had to stay home from day care or school when my wife had to be at work. I realize I was a young father during a different era, but I would never have left my work projects in limbo for four weeks, let alone sixteen weeks.

My wife took six months off with our first child. Afterward, she felt she had not spent as much time at home with our first child as she would have liked, so she took a full year off with our second child. Fortunately, her employment situation enabled her to take both periods of time off with full pay.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by 3funder » Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:16 pm

Take 16 weeks.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by destinationnc » Thu Jan 09, 2020 1:24 pm

Take it! You'll never get this time back.

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Re: Parental Leave - 4 weeks or 16 weeks - thoughts/perspective?

Post by BlueCable » Thu Jan 09, 2020 8:23 pm

TheMadEph wrote:
Thu Jan 09, 2020 12:44 pm
BlueCable wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:56 pm
Patrick584 wrote:
Mon Jan 06, 2020 9:10 pm
gallico wrote:
Sun Jan 05, 2020 8:47 pm
You will need to look at what the HR defines as "primary caregiver". That is likely going to be the mother as she nurses and will be the primary carer of the child. While you share the responsibility the parental roles, you are not the primary caregiver and likely the secondary caregiver.

Of course that also depends on your home situation (is your wife going back to work sooner as an example). But best to go your HR group.
Fathers are primary caregivers period. No HR could legally say otherwise. This isn’t the 1950s.
He and his wife cannot both be primary caregivers at the same time. He may or may not be the primary caregiver, depending on how his family handles child-reading duties. "Primary Caregiver" is a real term with real meaning.

From USLegal.com: "In Family law, primary caretaker or primary caregiver refers to the parent who has the greatest responsibility for the daily care and rearing of a child."

It would be at least unethical to claim the Primary Caregiver leave if someone is not the primary caregiver.
I would not rely on Uslegal.com to make any decisions. Family law definitions are irrelevant because you are talking about HR policies and fair treatment of the employee. OP - don't worry about this distinction, it is a red herring.
(What if parents actually equally share responsibility - are there no primary caregivers in that situation?)
Sure, that's why we've suggested the OP find out what the policy means by "primary care."

I'm surprised so many people suggest that the OP ignore this part of the policy.

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